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When I was a kid, I had a lot of cavities. My dentist in our small Canadian-prairie town had intense blue eyes, and I remember staring at them for hours as he filled my stream of never-ending cavities. I hated going to the dentist, as did every single one of my friends, but I have long felt that the best dentists should have blue eyes.

Then I didn’t go for several years, from my late teens till early 20s. I expected when I finally returned I’d have 14 cavities. And I didn’t have any! Apparently my teeth had somehow improved, gotten over their inclination to form large holes. Oh sure, I had to have a couple of particularly horrible root canals in my 20s and early 30s, but then I mostly stopped having issues and starting having great teeth, except they tend to break but that can be ignored, right? Right.

I remain a wimp when it comes to dentists. I pride myself on not being a total baby, but I kind of am.

I do not go to dentists overseas, although I’m sure they’re fine. I have a very good dentist here in Portland, who (coincidentally? I think not)  has blue eyes, and I see him every 2 to 3 years and that works. And I have gone years and years without having cavities. I don’t have them anymore. So, naturally, I went in a couple of weeks ago (first time in 3 years) and was told I had a cavity. Not just any cavity, but a very large one that had handily formed between two back teeth, so that I would need 2 teeth filled. (He also fussily wants to deal with that tooth I broke in Morocco, but that’s not for weeks yet.)

To make it worse, Donn has gone his entire life without once having a filling. My children have gone their entire lives without having any cavities. I get no sympathy.

I went in yesterday morning. “How nice to see you,” said my kind, blue-eyed dentist. “I wish I could say the same thing!” I riposted. Then we got down to work, and it took ages. The drilling went on and on and on. It was miserable.

But I was happy, underneath it all. Or maybe content would be a better word. Because it was super unpleasant, and my mouth’s been quite painful today, but it was so much better than it could have been. I was quite philosophical, under the dentist’s drill, musing on dentistry 100 years ago and thinking I would probably be a toothless crone by now. I thought of modern-day dentistry in developing countries, and thought of Howa, a Mauritanian woman I knew who had a hole between her two front teeth. My guess would be she’s lost both teeth by now. Even my Iraqi refugee friends are having their teeth pulled, as their insurance doesn’t cover root canals and crowns and other “miracles” (said in dry tone) of modern dentistry. I’m really lucky. And now that my mouth has recovered, I can appreciate that.

And Donn actually has his first cavity in over 40 years of having teeth! I’m not gloating or anything. And no, I wasn’t mean enough to describe the drilling in great detail to scare him or anything. Not me. But seriously. WHO gets their first filling in middle age?

May 2011

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